Middle East

Islamic State: Coalition 'pledges more troops' for Iraq

Iraqi security forces near Tikrit on 8 December 2014 Image copyright AP
Image caption The Iraqi military failed to prevent IS taking large swathes of territory

The US-led coalition fighting Islamic State (IS) militants has pledged to send an additional 1,500 troops to Iraq, a top US commander has said.

Lt Gen James Terry, who is co-ordinating efforts against IS, said the soldiers would be in addition to 3,100 US soldiers already promised.

He did not say which coalition nations would provide the extra troops or what role they would play.

The US has agreed to send troops to Iraq in an advisory role.

Coalition members discussed the Islamic State issue and made the troop pledge at a security conference in the region last week, Gen Terry said.

Gen Terry also told the conference that air strikes against IS were taking a toll on the militants' campaign in Iraq and Syria.

The US state department says nearly 60 countries belong to the coalition, although most play no direct role in the air strikes.

It is hoped the deployment of additional soldiers will increase the effectiveness of the Iraqi army, much of which proved ineffective under an IS onslaught last summer.

"While [the Iraqi security forces] have a long way to go I think they're becoming more capable every day," Lt Terry said.

"When you start now to balance the different capabilities out across the coalition, I think we're doing pretty well in terms of boots on the ground."

Meanwhile, the Combined Joint Task Force announced that US-led coalition forces carried out 15 air strikes in Syria and 31 in Iraq between 3 and 8 December.

IS controls large areas of Syria and Iraq, imposing a rigid version of Sunni Islam and persecuting or killing non-believers.

The group has also executed several western hostages and has promised to kill more.

Earlier on Monday US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said that the US would not be reviewing its policy of not paying ransoms in hostage situations, in spite of several failed rescue bids in the last few months.

In the latest incident, British-born US journalist Luke Somers and South African teacher Pierre Korkie were both killed by al-Qaeda gunmen in Yemen during an attempted rescue operation on Saturday.